Recently, we’ve been getting a lot of questions from people about medical testing, like this one from our friend Richard:
“In your facebook post, you mention getting specific test(s). Where can I get info on all the tests you recommend and what to do after receiving the results? thx” – Richard
If you’re feeling stuck and can’t seem to figure out the next step, getting the right test could be the key that unlocks the next level of health for you.
For example, if there’s a bacterial infection hiding in your gut, it could be the reason your diarrhea won’t stop no matter what you eat. Or if you’re exhausted and can’t get out of bed in the morning, fixing your hormones could be the profound health change you’ve been wishing for.
But I’ll be brutally honest with you: sometimes I think it’s easier to score cocaine than to get the proper tests you need. And if you do get the proper tests ordered, it can be a nightmare trying to find someone qualified to help you interpret the results. Not only that, but ordering the WRONG tests is like lighting hundred dollar bills on fire for heat.
How Do You Know What Tests You Need?
There are literally thousands of medical tests out there… and depending on who you see, they’ll likely recommend different ones. So, how can you make sense of all these recommendations and know where to spend your hard-earned money?
I like the methodology Chris Kresser follows for deciding whether or not a test is worth ordering. He likes to ask, “Would the results of this test change the treatment protocol?”
I like the approach because it instantly rules out unnecessary testing. We get emails all the time from people that spent thousands of dollars on tests that didn’t change the course of their treatment. All I can do is shake my head because I’ve been there.
I’ve personally spent thousands of dollars on tests that didn’t mean anything. When I started my journey to health I really didn’t know what I was ordering… I just wanted to find out why I couldn’t get better. Let me give you an example.
Here’s a Test That Wastes Money
Consider food allergy testing: would the outcome of food allergy testing change your treatment?
It’s natural to think it would, but I would argue it doesn’t. And I’ll support my point of view with the following reasons.
1. Food allergy tests are notoriously inaccurate. In fact, practitioners we know personally have sent their own blood samples with fake names to the same lab companies… only to get different results. And based on what I’ve seen, I can’t say that the results of food allergy tests prove anything except what we already know…
2. People with digestive problems typically have leaky gut. Therefore, whatever foods you eat on a regular basis are going to be leaking through your gut walls and show up as “positive” on a food allergy test. It doesn’t matter if you’re eating pizza or organic, grass-fed beef.
3. The first thing most people do with a food allergy test result is stop eating the food you test “positive” for. Imagine being told, no matter what you’re eating, that you can’t eat it anymore. No allergy testing in the world would change the outcome of your treatment when you’re dealing with leaky gut. Instead, it’s just confirming you have leaky gut… which you should assume anyway if you’re dealing with autoimmunity or digestive disease.
Why spend money on food allergy testing if it won’t change the outcome of your treatment? Instead, focus on tests that actually change your treatment plan.
What Tests Are Worth the Money?
In the Functional Medicine model, there are three main body systems that must to be working properly in order to be healthy. Those three body systems are:
- The Hormones (Cortisol rhythm, Sex Hormones, Thyroid, etc.)
- The G.I. Tract (Digestion and Absorption)
- The Detox System (Elimination of Toxins and Nutrient Replacement)
If any one of these three systems crashes, the result is illness. Not only that, but typically if one system crashes, all three eventually come down together.
Not everyone shows signs that all three systems need to be tested… so there’s still potential to waste money by ordering tests you don’t need. But if you start by focusing on these three systems, you can make sure you’re investing in the right areas. The results of tests from these three systems typically alter any treatment plan.
For example, anyone with autoimmune conditions or digestive disease should test their hormones and GI Tract. In most cases, these two systems crashed. The take-home point here is until the proper testing is done to figure out what therapeutic programs are needed, only a limited amount of healing can take place.
Choosing the Wrong Lab Company is Expensive
I once ordered a $260 saliva hormone test from a company called ZRT Labs, which is online and easy for anyone to order from (no Doctor needed). The test results showed my hormones were just fine, but I knew that wasn’t true. I was having a hard time getting out of bed. I was fatigued. I wasn’t recovering from workouts and generally felt awful. I knew I was dealing with some degree of HPA axis dysregulation (commonly referred to as Adrenal Fatigue).
I flat out didn’t trust the test results, so a few weeks later I ordered the same test from BioHealth Labs, which our practitioner friends told us is one of the most reliable labs. Their results showed I was in Stage 3 Adrenal Fatigue and needed some serious help… finally confirming how I felt at the time. A few weeks after I started the proper therapeutic program I felt like I had a whole new body. I felt amazing!
The moral of the story is knowing which tests to order is important, but once you have a good idea where to spend your money, choosing the wrong lab will still waste a substantial amount of money. And the worst part is… you may never get the therapeutic treatment that you need if you make treatment decisions based on false results.
How to Order the Right Tests and Save Thousands of Dollars
So, let’s say you figure out which tests will help your treatment program, you get the inside scoop on the right lab companies to use, but you choose the wrong practitioner… you probably won’t get the proper therapeutic program.
Working with a skilled practitioner is the most important part of the 3 steps I covered in this article. We highly recommend you seek out practitioners who practice and study Functional Medicine.
What I like about Functional Medicine is the focus of practitioners is on making treatment decisions based on the proper test results. Getting healthy becomes about understanding the patient, their history, and what tests are necessary to make treatment decisions. Then, armed with the right test results for each of the three body systems, they can provide you with the right therapeutic treatment protocol.
If you’re interested in learning more about the exact tests that might be right for you, we recommend working with one of our recommended practitioners 1-on-1.
In good health,
P.S. – Have you ever wasted money on medical testing? Share your experience in the comments below.